Thursday, April 18, 2013

Susan's Trying Term

This is a huge scan of the cover of Susan's Trying Term (1961). The spine shows the unlikely scene of Susan wiping a painting with a turpentine-soaked rag and discovering a long lost masterpiece underneath, while the front cover shows a rare comment on the changing fashions of the day. Susan and her friends retain their "sensible" girlish 1950s hairdos, but Gabrielle has lost her much maligned ponytail and cut her hair short, which meets with the disapproval of the other characters. In her previous stories, Jane Shaw had, through her characters, complained a great deal about girls and women wearing trousers, especially Selina and Gabrielle Gascoigne, and (for reasons best known to herself) girls with ponytails. In 1962 she relented on this latter point when one of her best-loved characters, Ricky from Crooks Tour, was given a ponytail. All this may seem a bit strange today, but when I was a child it was strictly forbidden for girls to wear trousers at school. I remember in the late 1970s a girl in my class coming to school in trousers and her mother insisting that it was too cold for her to wear a skirt. The teacher finally agreed to the trousers as long as she wore a skirt on top of them! Even into the 1980s this ban continued. I recall how a girl at a school near mine incurred the wrath of a traditional female examiner when she turned up for her Higher English test in jeans and was "banned for life" from Scottish Certificate of Education exams as a result. However, I'm sure such a ban could never be enforced. But that was what it was like back then.